CHENNAI: Taking a jibe at the critics who blamed the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for their defeat, former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami said if they won, these critics would fall silent and praise ‘Janata Janardhan’ for their victory; and they would hardly make an issue of the so-called rigged EVMs.
“Leaders who contested from two constituencies, and won one seat but could not win from the other seat, should now ponder which EVM in which booth was tampered with,” Mr. Gopalaswami said referring to the criticism by certain parties which blamed ‘rigged’ EVMs, in the recent Lok Sabha elections, for their defeat.
“The critics fell silent after they won and praised the ‘Janata Janardhan’ (supreme public mandate) for their victory,” the former CEC said while speaking on ‘Indian Elections And Enduring Myths” at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology here on Saturday.
The veteran bureaucrat who had supervised the 15th Lok Sabha elections flayed the rampant “fake news” relating to the EVMs over the years even though they were “stand alone machines” not connected to any online system. This fake news had created one of the biggest myths of Indian democracy that EVMs could be tampered or meddled with.
He recalled that Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amrinder Singh had challenged the use of EVMs in the State’s high court in 2002 but trials failed to prove his charge and he had fallen silent after he won. BJP spokesperson G. V. L. Narasimha Rao, in a book in 2009, had faulted the EVMs for the party’s defeat and Subramaniam Swamy had cited US experts to claim that EVMs could be tampered with. However, the matter could not be proved. Later a US expert at a gathering in Chennai had emphatically said that standalone machines could not be tampered with.
He said the latest trend of demanding Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) attached to EVMs had also not put the controversy over EVMs at rest. Other myths related to EVMs included suspicion that software in the machines could be hacked or made to behave in a particular way and that this was possible because EVM chips were manufactured in Japan.
On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal for One Nation, One Election, Gopalaswami said this required constitutional amendments but “that cannot be a hurdle.” “But will we do it, I have my doubts,” he said. The move, he said, would cut down time and election expenditure. On a suggestion by founder chancellor of SRMIST and Lok Sabha MP, T. R. Paarivendhar that voting age should be reduced from 18 to 16, Gopalaswami urged him to introduce a private member’s bill in the House in this regard. Mr. Paarivendhar said the lecture was the first in a series planned by the institution to spark public debates on burning issues.